- Published: Friday, July 24, 2015 - 3:07 PM
- Tags: Erdogan; YPG;Islamic State; Obama;Assad; MIT;turkey
This article first appeared on Western Journalism.Com
The situation in Syria is becoming more complicated and dangerous by the day.
On Monday, Islamic State launched a suicide attack in the Turkish border town Suruc, killing 32 people. A Turkish ISIS terrorist blew himself up amongst a group of young people who were waiting to cross the border to help the Kurds in rebuilding the city of Kobani that was seized from ISIS by the Kurdish militia YPG after a long battle earlier this year. It marked the first time ISIS staged a suicide attack in Turkey.
Today, tensions on the Syrian-Turkish border further escalated after a Turkish soldier was killed by fire from an area controlled by Islamic State. Suleyman Tapsiz, the governor for Turkey’s Kilis province, reported that an army border outpost was attacked by Islamic State.
Turkish tanks responded by shelling ISIS positions across the border, killing an ISIS terrorist, and the Turkish air force scrambled jets to the Syrian border.
The Turkish government decided on Tuesday to erect a concrete wall on the border with Syria and to reinforce wire fencing. Turkish media later reported that the measures taken by the government include the sending of zeppelins to monitor the border and an increase of border patrols.
Turkish media also reported that Ankara had finally given permission to the U.S. air force to use the large Incirlik air base in the campaign against Islamic State. The permission came after a telephone conversation between President Obama and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan had always refused to join the U.S. led coalition against Islamic State.
His opponents accuse him of tacit support for the Jihadist group. In May, Reuters reported that the Turkish Secret Service, MIT, accompanied arms transports to ISIS. The news agency based its report on testimonies from Turkish gendarmerie officers and state persecutors.
Pundits say that Erdogan will use Turkish intervention in Syria not to fight ISIS, but to prevent the YPG from establishing a Kurdish state along the Turkish border.
Meanwhile in northwestern Syria, Hezbollah and the National Defense Force (remnants of President Bashar Assad’s army, Iranian Al Quds units, and Shiite militias) launched an offensive to drive Islamist rebels of the ‘Army of Conquest’ out of the strategic city of Zabadani.
Zabadani lies 30 miles northwest of Damascus and is crucial to the consolidation of the regime’s control over the border with Lebanon.
The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, said that Assad’s air force dropped a large number of barrel bombs on Zabadani, “causing unprecedented levels of destruction and many deaths among the civilian population.”
Heavy fighting continued into the night in the area of Zabadani, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported heavy aerial bombardments in and round the city. The group also reported casualties on both sides as well as widespread destruction.
Syrian state television reported the National Defense Force had destroyed a 77-yard-long tunnel used by the insurgents to transport weapons and equipment into Zabadani. The Army of Conquest retaliated by launching rockets and mortar grenades into the area of Idlib in northern Syria, Mistura reported.
The news about the offensive coincides with reports that Iran has increased its support to Assad after the signing of the nuclear deal with six world powers last week in Vienna. Last week, Iran granted Assad a $1 billion credit line, and more is expected once frozen Iranian assets are released if/when the agreement is implemented. Assad received an estimated $35 billion per year in order to survive, and analysts now say that the Vienna agreement will be his lifeline.
The Tower, citing the Financial Times, reported today that the “Iranians are paying Syrian Army deserters double to keep fighting for Assad.” A recruiter promised Syrian soldiers a monthly wage of $200, much more than the $60 they received from the Syrian government.
Iran-funded paramilitary organizations like the Maghaweer and the National Defense Force offer some “of the few economic opportunities left for many young men.” In addition to generous salaries, the militias offer pardons to young men for draft dodging.
The Daily Beast quoted a Syrian blogger last week who wrote that the economic windfall Iran is expected to receive from the recent nuclear agreement will likely mean “more bombs, more bullets, and more militias will be sent to Assad, and the easing of sanctions means more money will be used to prop up his economy and keep him in power.”
Assad suffered a series of setbacks recently that seemed to indicate the end of his regime was near. The main reason for the string of defeats his army suffered is a shortage of manpower. The Arab news site Albawaba revealed today that Arab media were circulating an allegedly leaked document from the Assad regime that gives evidence to the claim that the Syrian army suffers from mass defection.
“Six hundred eighty six army soldiers are wanted from the western village of Qardaha, Assad’s hometown, after they defected. The list of troops includes key leadership of government forces and, allegedly, men from the Assad family itself. The list of the troops also includes 319 core commanders in charge of infantries, tanks and missile launches,” Albawaba reported.